Perhaps one of my favorite inauguration traditions as a writer is the Inauguration Day Letter from the outgoing president to the incoming president. While the letters are brief, they capture the character of the outgoing president and provide a source of inspiration mixed with a dose of reality for the president-elect.
We won’t know exactly what President Obama says in his note to President Donald Trump in the near future, unless he chooses to make the note public. But, we can guess based on President Obama’s final press conference and an interview he did with 60 Minutes that two pieces of advice might be that the president-elect should rely on his team (can’t do the job alone) and that “certain norms” and “institutional traditions don’t get eroded.”
There may be some unknowns about the Inauguration Day Letter that’s left in the Oval Office today, but we can look back to January 20, 2009 (thanks to the National Archives and Records Administration) and see what President George W. Bush included in his note to President Barack Obama.
Jan 20, 2009
Congratulations on becoming our President. You have just begun a fantastic chapter in your life.
Very few have had the honor of knowing the responsibility you now feel. Very few know the excitement of the moment and the challenges you will face.
There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your “friends” will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me. No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead.
God bless you.
I had the honor to serve President Bush as a White House Intern in 2008. While the interns don’t get to spend a lot of candid time with the president, there were a few times that we got to see him when the cameras were off. I grew to admire his character the more I was there. He was a man of God – and that’s clearly reflected in his note – not just in the mention of having an Almighty God as a source of comfort, but also in saying that he will be pulling him, despite their political differences.
So when did this whole Inauguration Day Letter tradition start? Like so many awesome things, it started with President Ronald Reagan. President George H.W. Bush shared a glimpse of the note he received at President Reagan’s funeral – the heading? “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.” According to President Bush’s description of the note, the stationary President Reagan used showed a group of turkeys trying to take an elephant down.
One final thought – Do you think President Reagan left any jelly beans to accompany his note?